Familiar, but new

Reviewed by Robert P. Moyer

HI FIVE. By Joe Ide. Mulholland Press. 337 pages. $27.

He seems familiar, but Isaiah Quintabe is the most unusual private eye in current mystery fiction. Undersized and overbrained, this African-American unlicensed detective can solve any crime, and does — just for the sake of doing it. He’s been known to take a casserole as payment for his services. Just ask his one-time partner Dodson. And he doesn’t let his personal relationships stop his obsessive pursuit of the truth. Just ask the love of his life, Grace. An obsessive, compulsive, socially awkward private eye in L.A. — that’s why he’s so familiar. He’s a direct descendant of Phillip Marlowe, the original obsessive, compulsive, socially awkward private eye, created by Raymond Chandler.

The mean streets that Marlowe went down don’t come close to the mean ’hoods where IQ, as he is known, lives and works. In all his previous books, he gets threatened, throttled and kidnapped. Things aren’t looking up in this latest episode. Angus, the biggest, and ugliest, arms dealer on the West Coast demands IQ clear his daughter of murder charges, or Angus will break IQ’s violinist friend’s fingers — and probably kill IQ. 

Christiana is accused of killing her boyfriend. The good news is there were five witnesses; the bad news is they are all inside the daughter Christiana. Thanks to an abused childhood, she suffers from multiple personality disorder. None of them saw the whole thing, and none of them will cooperate with IQ long enough for him to get a clear picture of what’s happening. He sets off on a dangerous path that involves run-ins with Angus’ crew, gang leaders, and a unique pair of hired killers. Nobody likes him, and everybody is after him. He makes deals that double back on him, and leave him in a darker place than any protagonist deserves — but he unravels the mystery in the last few pages.

Joe Ide is one of the most imaginative writers at work today. In addition to a page-turning plot, he weaves a complex tapestry of characterization. Even Angus, the vilest villain, has a backstory that brings us closer to him, and the returning characters become even more comprehensively human. Hi Five demonstrates the author’s increasing skill. It’s complete enough to be a stand-alone read, but why take away the pleasure of plowing through the three preceding books? Take a trip down the mean ‘hoods of IQ’s L.A.

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